Timothy Bradley doesn’t give a damn about the odds and doesn’t care what you think.
Watching him go through drills at his media day on Wednesday in Indio, California with new head trainer Teddy Atlas, was revealing in Bradley’s desire to reinvent himself with a passion. Former longtime trainer Joel Diaz, someone Bradley was very close to, told Bradley that he should retire from the sport and doubted he could train Bradley again. Fiercely proud, determined and in possession of granite-like will and physique, “Desert Storm” immediately parted ways with Diaz and began searching for a new coach. Seeking to join forces with someone who could help him foster an overhaul with renewed fervor, Bradley teamed up with the eccentric and energetic fight professor Atlas.
Just days ahead of his massive showdown with Oxnard, California native Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, Bradley was able to share the type of maniacal dedication Atlas brings to preparation for a bout. “Teddy came out here to the desert for two days, and on the first day he came at me with this big like booklet thing,” Bradley told reporters. “It had every round of all my fights. Who I was fighting and what mistakes I made in each round. I was like ‘Now that’s a coach. He’s ready. He’s prepared.’ Then we watched a tape of Brandon Rios together. And he had all this stuff jotted down about Rios’ mistakes and how I could capitalize on them. Or if I could. It was crazy.”
It would also be crazy to believe that Rios, and his trainer Robert Garcia, haven’t seen all of the rounds from Bradley over the past 4 or 5 years and figured out a few things. For starters, the 2013 war with Ruslan Provodnikov that Bradley has never really recovered from, and his last outing with Jesse Vargas (a narrow points win) that prompted the departure of Diaz. After being completely paint-jobbed by Manny Pacquiao in late 2013 and suffering a disappointing DQ nod against Diego Chaves, Rios looked phenomenal in butchering a completely shot Mike Alvarado earlier this year. But what we’ll find out in Bradley vs. Rios, for Bradley’s WBO welterweight belt at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas this Saturday night, is which one of them is closer to being what they were as opposed to what they’ll never be again.
ANALYSIS AND PREDICTION
Bradley (32-1-1, 12KOs), 31, will be facing a very big welterweight in Rios, and essentially, a more technically proficient and offensively versatile version of Provodnikov. This is no longer the Bradley that defeated Devon Alexander with ease or the fighter who put on a clinic over Lamont Peterson.
Bradley is now very much the fighter who was superior to Diego Chaves (he was robbed- but gave judges a reason to rob him) last year but allowed the fight to be more competitive than it should’ve been. He’s more talented than Rios, still, it won’t stop him from doing the same. This is only a hunch, but it appeared Bradley’s physical limitations made that fight more difficult- and even contributed to the pitched battle he fought with Vargas, which almost resulted in him being stopped. Bradley has never gotten the grit (or something that rhymes with it) beat out of him, but he has had his prime beaten out of him. He can no longer launch sustained attacks or throw with heavy volume without taking a rest during rounds and giving his opponent a chance to do the same. 24 rounds with Pacquiao – with the Provodnikov fight sandwiched in between – took a toll on Bradley, and he will not be as fresh as Rios.
Bradley has this Evander Holyfield-like way about himself in that if you hit cleanly, he’ll have a desire to hit you the same way twice. This will lead to a war he cannot resist for he believes he’s a big puncher, though he clearly is not. If this notion is wrong, it is only because Atlas has been able to inculcate it into Bradley’s mind that he needs to revert back to the boxer that outclassed Juan Manuel Marquez back in 2013. He’d just witnessed Marquez’s historic KO of Pacquiao and was wary of his counter-pucnhing power. It’s possible he turns back the clock, but it is unlikely he’ll box with consistent discipline against the ultra-aggressive Rios.
Although Alvarado was a shell of himself, Rios (33-2-1, 24KOs), 29, showed enough of the ability and punishing technique that made him a star. He has way more dimension to his offense than Provodnikov, has an upgraded skill set, punches harder and with more accuracy, produces the same punch volume and has a bigger frame. Bradley’s once iron-chin now has a few cracks and he doesn’t have the power to cause Rios many problems in that area.
Because of the pride that exists between them, their personalities and true warrior mentalities, this fight should be an absolute classic that may result in 2015’s best. But Bradley’s recent struggles against the green Vargas and ripe for the picking Chaves, will probably lead to defeat against a surging Rios that will smell and produce blood. Growing stronger as the fight progresses, look for Rios to grind Bradley in a spectacular battle of attrition, as he stops the proud champion in the 11th round to win the WBO welterweight world title. If he does indeed do this, expect for Bob Arum and Top Rank to set up a rematch with Manny Pacquiao.
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